I have written about George Allison over the last few weeks, and today we wrap up a discussion of that prominent early 20th Century citizen with a look at his home.
The original construction date for the Allison House, a historic Colonial Revival home located at 418 West Duval Street, is unknown. Insurance maps from 1903 show the home with a turret, full wrap-around front porch and weatherboard exterior. The 1903 insurance map was the first map of Live Oak to reach that far to the northwest of downtown, and thus it is unknown how long the home existed before that point. Mr. T. S. Baisden, a local merchant, owned the home. The Live Oak Daily Democrat (a daily newspaper in the early years of the 1900s) published a 1906 picture of the residence of T. S. Baisden on Third (Duval) Street; it shows a 1 ½ story Victorian/Queen Anne style home.
George F. Allison purchased the home in July 1920 from Mr. Baisden, shortly after marrying Sybil Carrington. At the time, and for a quarter-century prior to that, Duval Street had been one of the wealthiest streets in Live Oak. Dozens of stately homes lined the street, and the most influential of Live Oak and Suwannee County’s citizens not only lived there but, conducted much of their business on their porches or within their parlors. At the time of sale, the Suwannee Democrat reported that the house was “one of the oldest but best kept places in town, and is considered one of the most beautiful places in Live Oak. Mr. Allison bought this place as a residence for himself and will move in as soon as it is vacated.”
Existing records show that the house was a place of entertainment for business guests, community socializing and a showplace. Included among those guests were representatives of the Ford Motor Company. In 1922, Allison had his home remodeled, using the same contractor who had remodeled the Alimar Theater (co-owned by Allison and Dr. Marvin Price) and built the Masonic Temple in Live Oak. A newspaper article notes that the home was “remodeled and enlarged.” There were no building permits at the time, but an insurance map from 1924 shows an added porte-cochere at the west end of the porch; otherwise, the footprint seems to be the same. If the 1906 Baisden photograph is in fact the same house, then there were some major changes to the home under George Allison’s ownership.
Regardless, the Allison House was damaged by fire on January 1, 1927, with the rear portion especially damaged. Fire Department records show that the house was 40% damaged. The family was forced to move into temporary quarters elsewhere while George Allison decided to rebuild what was left of the house in a new style, opting for the Colonial Revival that still stands today. Records from those who lived during the period recalled that the original house was not greatly altered, except that shingles replaced lap siding and another porte-cochere replaced the porch at the east end. Some suggested that the entire house was replaced but admitted that their knowledge of it was second-hand hearsay. The footprint and basic design of the home remained the same, suggesting that the original framing remained.
Unfortunately, Mr. Allison did not live to see the renovation work completed. After his death in February 1927, his wife continued to work on the house. In the 1930s, she developed gardens around the house that became quite well-known in the area. A small lily pool was also designed by her son James Allison in 1934.
The home remained in the Allison family for nearly 50 more years, virtually unchanged from the 1927 renovations. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 20, 1995, while under the ownership of Frances Terry. The Allison House still stands today as a testament to our forefathers.
Join me next week for more Suwannee County history!
Eric Musgrove can be reached at email@example.com or 386-362-0564.